[The Turning Point] How this IIT Bombay alumnus decided to disrupt India's beauty market with his startup Plum
Shankar Prasad started Pureplay Skin Sciences with a single idea in mind — to bring delightful goodness to the world of beauty. He wanted to offer products that not only claimed but also delivered delight to the consumers with every use.
“I didn’t think of skincare as a serious, boring, shade-card driven chore, but as a way of celebrating what we are born with and making friends with the beauty of nature around us,” Shankar explains.
Founded in 2014, Pureplay Skin Sciences has two brands: Plum, that largely caters to women, and Phy is for men.
Both brands offer 100 percent vegan, cruelty-free, safe and sustainable beauty and grooming products. With more than 60 products in Plum and 12 in Phy, Its products range from skincare, cosmetics, body and bath essentials, etc.
During one of Shankar’s travels abroad, he observed that the consumer brands there followed a strong core philosophy. He was amazed by the quality and variety of consumer brands available, which triggered him to think where India lacked when it came to the skincare industry.
In his research, he found that the brands, which refrained from testing on animals in Europe and the US, did so in India. There was also a lack of conscience and transparency in the beauty industry.
Therefore, with the aim of filling this gap and provide Indian consumers with an ethical and sustainable brand, he started Pureplay Skin Sciences after a year of research, in July 2014.
“I started with a blank notebook – no assumptions, just lots of research, talking to consumers and trying to define what the brand is about. Then came the product formulations and this was really challenging. Most formulas at that time were the traditional ones and I had a hard time convincing people that we could look at alternative formulations that work better and are also cleaner. Then the hard task of sourcing packaging. Then I started selling online first, and gradually moved to distribution,” the IIT-Bombay alumnus says.
Identifying the right consumer value proposition, sourcing ingredients and packaging material matching the philosophy, and balancing between the business side of things and the creative side of things were some of the challenges for the company.
“We are inspired by the goodness of nature and driven by the desire to be good and do good. At the core, Plum and Phy as brands represent a changing mindset; that of conscious living – where thoughtfulness precedes and accompanies the action. We believe our customers should feel good about the skin they are born with and take ’good’ care of it with only the best that nature has to offer. We do not do fairness creams as a policy and stay away from making false promises and over-packaging,” Shankar says.
The company that started as a bootstrapped venture, secured Series A funding from Unilever Ventures, in 2018.
The company also gives extra focus on the design and packaging of their product.
“When I first saw the logo, and later the first pack mock-ups of Plum – I knew we were on to something delightful and special. To this day, we get into an extreme level of detail and debate when it comes to design and packaging – we just love it."
Speaking on future plans and expansions, Shankar says,
“The company has expanded its retail distribution to over 70 cities in India. About a third of our sales comes from retail distribution and this will go up to 60 percent in another three to four years. We are expecting to touch the Rs. 100 crore turnover mark very soon.”
(Edited by Suman Singh)